Mr.Sanjari you are or have been a student activist in Iran, could you tell us about the student movements in Iran, considering that these movements often get confused with the pro-democracy movements said to be backed by the Bush Administration?
I think we have to clarify a few issues in order to distinguish the students movement and as you referred the pro-democracy movement. The Iranian student movement has no interdependence on any foreign government programs and is totally independent and self ruled. Although it is true to say that there are various trends in the movement. The Iranian Intelligence ministry, however, has tried so far to propagate the idea that the student movements have been harnessed in co ordination with the US government, or foreign governments and movements, in order to arrest, and detain students under this pretext.
The Iranian regime has recently adopted this method and has detained illegally a couple of active dissident students. They are accused of being in contact with foreign organizations and governments to overthrow the Iranian regime.This is not true, and is only a pretext used by the Iranian Intelligence ministry to suppress the student movement.There are different trends of though amongst the students, ranging from liberals to Marxists, the latter leaning more on Marxist-Leninist ideology. These groups tend to be negative on any help from the west for establishing democracy.
Of course I can’t neglect the fact that some students, while losing hope on any possible change in the present political infrastructure of the Islamic republic, have turned an eye on support and help offered by the US for the people’s civic movement that seek to change the regime in Iran.
How effective are these movements and are they sponsored by any mainstream political opposition?
The student movement has always been a stronghold against all totalitarians and tyrants for all freedom seeking groups in our history. The movement’s aspirations for freedom always began from the university campus and led out into public arenas, echoed in alleys and public places and finally has been absorbed by the people. In the past years, we have suffered from a vacuum left by the absence of experienced and organized opposition parties and independent news media in our political society.
The task of safeguarding the movements’ stronghold was therefore left for to the democratic student movement to sustain the opposition in Iran. The significance of this movement is its financial independents from the government. Unlike some reformist parties in the government, they do not believe in conservatism, and tend to pass the “red line” drawn by the regime constantly, by criticizing the anti-democratic constitution of the Islamic Republic. They are in constant touch with their environment and encourage their families to join them in the resistance.
For example, they support the women’s movement or take part in the workers and teachers demonstrations. They help them out to communicate their demands in university campuses, and try to unify the different movements in the society. They are very much aware that their success lies in realizing this unity.I should finally say that, they are supported by the mainstream opposition movements, while at the same time face much threat of being manipulated by the reformists. They are very much reluctant in accepting this pressure.
Have any student demands been met so far?
The Iranian regime is incapable of meeting demands of the students’ protests.Some of the demands of the students have been the dismantling of the disciplinary committees established by the government, the closing of the secret security force units in the Universities-known as “Harasat”, giving Academic freedom which would mean that political pluralism is realized in the University and freedom in exchange of political opinion would be granted.
But the regime has planned to carry out a cultural revolution such as the one carried out in 1996. During those years, many progressive professors and also pro-democracy students were discharged from Universities. They close news papers, arrested protesting students, and set them up with fraudulent cases, and accuse them of being in contact with foreign western governments. This regime intends to purge the universities as we say in a “Stalinist style” perhaps replicating the Chinese cultural purge. Students demand regime change, but they have only been suppressed violently. They demand respect for Democracy, and the compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.This regime is antagonistic with Democracy and all it stands for, because of its ideology.
In your profile we know that you have been the spokesman for a group of Iranian political prisoners, could you tell us of their present situation, their demand and political composition?
Please allow me first to explain a fact that is taken for granted in fairly democratic systems. Countries that abide with original democracy hardly come across with the question of political prisoners. In Iran, dissidents and political critics are persecuted for their political beliefs and are detained and imprisoned. The regime has invented ways to pin down its opposition; there is a unique term used in Iran, known as “creating fear and instability in public opinion”.
I know that this term is some how alien to you, but this invented charge, when aimed at some one means that, the person has created chaos in other people’s minds, while he is expressing his opinion. He is therefore arrested and chucked into a prison cell, as simple as this.
We come across another common charge against dissidents known as “advertising against the system”. Hundreds of prisoners are accused of this vague charge; these may include those who have either converted from Islam to Christianity or the Baha’I religion. I personally know one such person; his name is Hamid Pourzand, a military personnel, who was caught in a friendly picnic with a group of Christians in Karaj-city near the Capital. He was charged with apostasy. According to laws of the mullahs, any one charged with apostasy is automatically sentenced to death.
We can even find mullahs who criticize the regime, imprisoned for their opinions. Such is Ayatollah Boroojerdi. In his case, the special Clergy tribunal charged him with apostasy, and sentenced him and a few of his followers to death. He believed in the separation of state and religion.Last year I was in the notorious section 209 of Evin prison on certain charges, and witnessed the kind of tortures inflicted on Ayatollah Boroojerdi and his followers by the interrogators – members of the Secret police. 300 women, who had taken part in the sit-in held in support of Mr.Boroojerdi, were tortured physically and mentally in section 209, along side this Mr.Boroojerdi also suffered a head hemorrhage.